Sunday, September 6, 2015

Dear Gender Warriors

I work for a company that has recently came under fire for labeling their toy sections "Boy's" and "Girl's".  This is unacceptable to some people because apparently we shouldn't put gender labels on anything, and people should be able to decide what they want based on their own feelings.  If we say that a toy is for boys, then there is no way a girl will ever play with it, but if it is just labeled as "toy", the ban has been lifted and children will no longer fear imprisonment or persecution for their choices.  That's what I've come to understand, or maybe it's just that people need to complain about something, and always have to push their beliefs on everyone else.  The bottom line is, no matter what you label something, as long as people don't just respect other people's decisions, as long as no one is getting hurt, then nothing is going to change for the better.

This week, I was distributing clearance items throughout the departments of the store that I supervise.  Needless to say, with school having started, much of the Back to School items have gotten drastically reduced.  At the bottom of one pallet, I opened a box only to find what would generally be described as a "girl's bookbag", at least before the gender war began.  It looked something like this:
except it had more sass and sparkles.  There were only three left, and I joked with some coworkers that we had found our new gang colors.  Still chuckling, I pushed the mostly empty pallet to the back of the store where the meager remnants of the school supplies had gone to die.  In front of the backpacks, a woman was sitting on the little three inch high shelf below the bookbag display.  She was facing her son, a very small boy who was sitting on the floor, arms around his knees, and head resting on his kneecaps.  She was holding a bookbag much more suited to a high schooler, just a plain design of turquoise and black. 

Woman: Do you think this one is better?

Kid: (very quietly): I don't know. 

Woman: (clearly upset but putting on a happy face for her kid): I think this is really nice.

Kid (still almost whispering) Maybe. I don't know.

My coworkers and I deal with things like this often.  We step in and try to cheer up kids that are upset, we mess around with friendly kids, and just try to joke with the guests.  It makes a shift go by quicker, and honestly makes you feel better.  It seemed to me this kid should be looking at a Ninja Turtles backpack, or an Avengers, really anything a little kid would use.  For his mom to be showing him something so plain and more grown up, something must have happened there.  My guess would be, from his tentative answers, he probably had a Paw Patrol bookbag or something that the kids in his school made fun of him for, and his mom was trying to find something so he wouldn't get picked on.  Had I thought my actions through, I might not have done what I did, but I wouldn't be me or have half the stories on this blog if I ever put thought into my actions. 

Me:  Hey there buddy, are you in luck!  You need a new bookbag?

The little kid turned and looked way way up to my face, and slowly nodded.  I smiled and grabbed the spangly mess of a bookbag out of it's box, and displayed it proudly to him.

Me:  This is the absolute best bookbag we have.  I was hiding them in the back, but my bosses found them and told me I had to put them out here so that other people get a chance to own something this cool.  If there's still one left, I am buying it when I leave today!

The kid looks at me like I was a poorly dancing polar bear, or maybe just a giant man standing in front of him holding a pink kitten backpack.

Kid:  That's a girl's bag.

Me: It is? 

I look it up and down, pretending to be confused.

Me:  I don't think it is.  This looks like a boy cat to me.  I think his name is Reginald.

The kid giggles. 

Kid:  I think it's a bookbag for girls to wear.

Me:  Pffft.  I don't care.  This thing is awesome.

I put the backpack on and strut a little.  He laughs again.  I take it off and hold it out.

Me:  You sure you don't want this?

Kid:  No, thank you.

Me:  Alright kid, your loss.

I point over to his mom, and the bookbag she's holding.

Me:  Wow!  That one's almost as cool as this one.  Are you buying that one?

Kid:  (staring at his mom) Maybe.

Me: Aww man, really?  Is there another?

I start rooting through the backpacks on the wall.

Me:  That's the last one!  If you're getting it, you better hold onto it.  People are going to be really jealous.

Kid:  Yeah, it's good!

His mom smiles really wide and mouths "Thank you so much" to me.  I nod and hang the cat-astropic bookbags on the wall.

Me: Alright Reginald, I'll be back at four to get you. 

I wave to the kid.

Me:  Have a good day, guys!

The kid shouldn't have had to think twice about anything.  He should have bought a bookbag he liked, and been happy with it.  Idiots have kids, and teach their idiot kids to be ignorant like they are, and everyone is worse off in the end.